26 July 2015

John 6:1-21

“When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’ ... But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’” (vv. 14, 20)

Psalm: Psalm 145


The writer of John's Gospel frequently refers to the 'signs' that Jesus did. He wants them to be understood clearly since his aim is that people will come to believe (as he claims near the end of his writing). This often means that he seems more interested in the meaning of the story than in what actually happened, or where, or even sometimes when.

So it is not clear whether his phrase "the other side" (v. 1) indicates a journey from Jerusalem, where Jesus has been at the festival, or elsewhere in Galilee. But it may be that the reader is invited to accept a suggestion of being outside familiar territory.

The writer is beginning to lead the readers towards one of the great 'I am' sayings of this Gospel. 'I am' was recognised as one way of referring to the name of God and the writer names a number of ways in which Jesus speaks of himself, using this phrase. In this chapter, in verse 35, we read of Jesus saying "I am the bread of life".

So this delightful picnic is vital to an understanding of that statement. This is especially true because this Gospel does not include the references to bread and wine in the Last Supper, which the other three Gospels contain. Instead we have Jesus giving thanks and distributing bread here among the people. And maybe the 12 baskets left over are there to remind the reader that Jesus is creating a new Israel - a new 12 tribes.

The second story may be a reminder of God's power in Jesus. For that community and the first readers, reference to stormy water would call to mind the chaos before God spoke creation into being (Genesis 1:1-2). So is this man the expected prophet (relating to Moses, or Elijah returning before the coming of the Messiah) or is he much more than that? It may be worth bearing in mind that the phrase 'It is I' is a translation of the Greek for 'I am'.

To Ponder

  • What signs of God's presence or word for you, might you find as you reflect on each day's events?
  • Reflect on your own view of Jesus. How much do these stories affect that view?

Bible notes author

Revd Alison Tomlin

Alison Tomlin is a supernumerary Methodist minister, who was president of the Methodist Conference in 2010/2011. She has been involved for the last 25 years in leading retreats and offering prayer, accompanying both groups and individuals.